Parliamentary questions/spoken contributions
Future Relationship with the EU
Health Protection 1
Health Protection 2
Free School Meals
Westferry Printworks Development 1
Westferry Printworks Development 2
Women: State Pension Uplift 1
Women: State Pension Uplift 2
Leaving the EU Road Haulage 1
Leaving the EU Road Haulage 2
Armed Forces Overall Size 1
Armed Forces Overall Size 2
Written contributions / video / social media links
Health Board Update 1
Government U-Turn: Free School Meals
Speech: Free School Meals
Sunday Business Trading
Raising funds for homeless veterans
British food standards
Health Board Update 2
‘Pick for Britain’ concerns
Gwent Gazette – Six Bells Mining Disaster article
Westferry ‘cash for favours’ scandal question
South Wales Argus – Six Bells Mining Disaster article
Illegal off-road biking update
Women’s pension error question
Health Board Update 3
Women’s pension error follow-up
Armed Forces retention question
The Government announced plans to revive the UK economy this week.
What Blaenau Gwent needed was a budget that assured hardworking people that their futures were in safe hands. What we got was a ‘meal deal’ and a half-cooked one at that.
No mention of funding for the public services which will be critical to our recovery, no clarity on funding for Wales and an ongoing complete lack of information about the Shared Prosperity Fund which will be so vital to Blaenau Gwent.
A restaurant discount is not going to ease the concerns of people who are worried about putting food on the table.
The closing of the Job Retention Scheme and tapering off support for the self-employed and others assumes we are on course to sail smoothly out of this crisis.
The Job Retention bonus is welcome but, instead over being handed over to any business, the bonus should have been targeted at those who most need the support.
Billions of pounds of taxpayer money are at risk of being wasted by this one-size-fits-all approach.
The Chancellor’s jobs plan alone will not be breathe life into the economy.
The Kickstart scheme – which to me appears to be Labour’s own successful Future Jobs Fund revived – is to be welcomed, but we need ambitious investment in young people who are facing the toughest job market in decades.
Labour NEC Welsh seat
I was pleased to see Carwyn Jones announce his candidacy for the Welsh Seat on the Labour National Executive Committee and have given him my full support.
We need a Labour government in Westminster and Carwyn can help bring our party together there.
As a former First Minister he has a wealth of experience to bring to the role and can ensure that Wales’ voice is heard at Labour’s top table.
His Welsh Labour background can help put our values into action.
Earlier this week Wales recorded its first day without a single coronavirus death since lockdown began. My latest update from Aneurin Bevan Health Board (ABUHB) shows that there have been just five positive tests across the health board area in the past week.
The message remains clear though, we must continue to keep our distance with anyone outside of our immediate and extended households, and keep up good hand hygiene in order to maintain this downward trend.
I am also pleased to see that testing is continuing in care homes and that 77 of the ABUHB area’s 101 care homes are now classed as “covid clean” meaning they have not had a case within the past 28 days.
However, there are still questions to be asked about what happened in our care homes during the early stages of this crisis.
I have been contacting care home management and launched an online survey for care staff in Blaenau Gwent to try and find out more about what happened from those who were most closely involved, and to get a sense of what further support may be required going forward.
In what has become a regular feature of this UK Government, public pressure and strong opposition from the Labour party forced a u-turn on a disastrous plan – in this case refusing to continue funding free school meals for children through the summer.
I gave a speech in Parliament where I relayed a story from my teenage years where free school meals carried my sisters and I through a very difficult time.
I know how important free school meals can be for many families. This is why I was delighted when the Welsh Labour Government pledged to keep funding free meals for children.
That the Tory Government was willing to let so many children go hungry over the summer was unacceptable.
Ultimately, we must tackle the root causes of child poverty but, given the Prime Minister’s bad tempered response to Keir Starmer’s challenges over this issue recently, I am not hopeful of it appearing near the top of this Government’s to-do list.
An area where a u-turn would be welcome, but now seems unlikely, is the Tory party’s failure to keep their promise to older people over their free TV licences.
The BBC has announced there will be no extension to the delay triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, and many older people will lose their free TV licence from August 1.
The fault here is firmly with the Tory party.
The Conservatives pledged in their 2017 manifesto that TV licences would remain free for over-75s, despite already knowing that they were passing the buck to the BBC.
In Blaenau Gwent – even with the concession being means tested – 3,080 households will miss out, costing a collective £463,540 annually.
This is another Tory policy which picks pensioners pockets. It is especially wrong to be potentially denying older people the company of television when so many are stuck indoors.
I have also been speaking out in Parliament about an issue which has seen what could be more than 100,000 married women being underpaid on their pensions due to an administrative blunder.
The issue is that some married women, who should have received an uplift when their husbands reached retirement aged, did not receive the boost and could have been being underpaid for many years.
I questioned the Government, asking for an investigation into the matter and for the department to look into the rules around backdating payments.
The Government’s response has been disappointing, replying that cases will be dealt as and when women come forward individually.
The problem with this is that many women will have no idea this has happened unless they are informed.
I will continue to push for the Government to investigate and bring forward a plan to contact those affected.
Agriculture and Environmental issues
I have been challenging Defra on several issues via my role on the public accounts committee including failures to make progress in reducing water consumption and prevent leakages and also ensuring that there will not be crops rotting in the fields due to a lack of seasonal harvest workers this year.
The Government says it has the latter in hand but I’m not so sure. I fear that the ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign is withering on the vine.
The coronavirus outbreak has meant that fewer migrant workers are able to travel here to help pick crops. It is vital the Government gets its act together to make sure there are people ready to pick the crops and feed our country.
I have also been contacted by a number of constituents about concerns over UK food standards.
Maintaining high food standards must be at the heart of our negotiations as we transition out of the EU.
When the now-Environment Secretary George Eustice was on the backbenches in 2019, he tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to protect the UK’s high animal welfare and food hygiene standards.
When Labour tabled the exact same amendment recently Eustice voted it down.
What has changed? The Conservative Party is tying itself in knots trying to get a trade deal with Donald Trump.
The Labour Party will continue to oppose any lowering of standards in food, food hygiene and animal welfare.